As the preview noted, the Midlands isn’t quite the event it once was, but it still included a couple of #1-ranked wrestlers, plenty of likely All-Americans, and, though it doesn’t really matter, a team title chase that came down to the last match.
125: #1 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) defeated #2 Brandon Courtney (ASU) in the final. Barnett’s path including a TF, 2 MD, and two 6-2 decisions. Given the Courtney took 2nd in the 2021 NCAAs and has only good losses—Lee, Suriano, McKee, Glory, DeAugustino—over the last 2+ years, this is a good showing for Barnett. Hard to imagine anything other than a Lee-Glory final at this point, but Barnett is right in the mix for 3rd. Courtney still might too, if he can fight off frosh sensation Richie Figueroa to keep his starting spot.
133: Michael Colaiocco (Penn) was very impressive in back-to-back victories of Lucas Byrd (Illinois) and Chris Cannon (Northwestern). None were higher than #8 entering the Midlands—according to Intermat—but I think at least two will earn All-American status this year. Byrd rallied from an 11-1 deficit to Colaiocco before fall 15-13, and I doubt he’ll give up too many more 6-point moves this year. Still, it was Colaiocco’s event, and he deserves the props right now.
141: National #1 Cole Matthews (Pittsburgh) took the title against a rather thin field. He only scored bonus points in one of his six wins, and three of them were decided by a point. Hard to say too much with confidence.
149: Yahya Thomas (NW) knocked off Kyle Parco (ASU) in a pretty good final. 149 is a deep weight and neither of these are favored to make the semis in March despite three All-American appearances among them. Still, both looked pretty good and are in the mix to add to that total.
157: I called this the weakest weight and
predicted guessed 3-seed Trevor Chumbley (NW) would grab the title and whaddya know, he did! Neither he nor the top two seeds (Anthony Artalona and Garrett Model) are likely to do a lot of damage in March, but, whatever, Chumbley is a Midlands champion. Special shoutout to Wisconsin backup Drew Scharenbrock, who recorded two pins (each in less than a minute) and TF in a four-match rampage to the finals before the clock struck midnight against Chumbley.
165: The premier match of the event saw Quincy Monday (Princeton), the #1-ranked wrestler at 157, eke out a 4-3 win over #4 Dean Hamiti (UW). Down 3-1 in the third, Hamiti equaled things with a takedown with about 1:20 to go. A rideout would’ve earned Hamiti a match-winning point, and he got close, but Monday was able to escape in the closing seconds. Not sure if Monday will stay at 165. If he does, it’s a brave decision, as 165 might be the deepest weight in the country and 157 is among the thinnest, especially without him. Either way, Monday rightly earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors.
174: Edmond Ruth (Illinois) was workmanlike in grabbing the title. 5 wins, 0 bonus points, Still, aside from his Round of 16 match requiring SV, Ruth was the more active, cleaner wrestler throughout. Can he challenge Carter Starocci? No. Can he be an All-American this year? Absolutely.
184: 2-seed Reece Heller (Pitt), who entered ranked #25 nationally, took the title as the best talent was elsewhere, so let’s spare a moment to celebrate the other finalist: Jaritt Shinhoster of Wiscosin-Whitewater. The D-III national champion last year knocked off 1-seed Brian Soldano (Rutgers in a convincing 7-0 semifinal victory.
197: 1-seed Braxton Amos (UW) recorded two pins and a TF en route to the semifinals, looking much more active than last year. However, once crunch time arrived, it was obvious this was an upper weight. Amos recorded a 2-1 win over Mac Stout (Pitt) before falling 2-1 in the final to 2-seed Zach Braunagel (Ill) in the second tiebreaking period. That’s right: more than 10 minutes of wrestling, zero takedowns. Braunagel, who went out in the blood round last year, is a worthy champ, but will have to pull off a couple of bigger upsets in Jan/Feb to crack a top 8 seed. As is, this matchup could easily happen again in the first round of the NCAAs in 13/20 or 14/19 sort of draw.
HWT: ASU’s Cohlton Schultz, last year’s national runner-up (to Gable Steveson!) was upset in the semis by Pitt frosh Dayton Pitzer, and it seemed reasonable to conclude that he still wasn’t 100% after an upset loss, and subsequent couple of MFF’s, at CKLV. However, Pitzer then upset Trent Hillger (UW) with a defensive pin at 6:57, and it should now be clear that Pitzer, a celebrated recruit, is a live All-American threat THIS year. Still, the title went to Lucas Davison (NW), who didn’t surrender a point in grabbing the title. That performance should see Davison into the top 4 of the next rankings along with fellow B1G performers Greg Kerkvliet, Mason Parris, and Tony Cassioppi (anybody else excited?).
The win also clinched the team title for Northwestern, which would’ve gone to Pitt had PItzer won. All in all, it was a really impressive performance for the Wildcats. Wisconsin, who led through most of the event, settled for fourth, 7.5 points behind NW. Illinois took 5th, and Rutgers 7th. Given Byrd’s stumble, Illinois likely has more upside—in terms of tournament scoring—that they showed here, and the Badgers have to feel like they’re capable of a better performances in March, especially since Austin Gomez didn’t go.
There isn’t much to say about the First Annual Iowa Intrasquad Tournament For The Troops, which, given the competition, is a good thing. All Iowa starters went except Siebrecht (157) and Nelson Brands (174), and Iowa only failed to capture those two weights. Iowa did not enter any wrestlers at 157, and Brennan Swafford made the semis at 174 before MFF’ing out of the tournament.
There were three all-Iowa finals, including a tense 125-pound match where Spencer made quick work of the redshirting Drake Ayala and then had some words for his bench. Apparently Spencer didn’t want to wrestle the match, but Ayala would not double-forfeit. Max Murin defeated teammate Caleb Rathjen 7-4 at 149 pounds, and Warner majored Kolby Franklin 10-2 at 197, with Zach Glazier finishing third to join his fellow Hawkeyes on the podium.
Ultimately, this tournament wasn’t the test for Iowa that Midlands or the Scuffle would be, but it was a way to get some matches under their belts in a tournament setting. The only way it compares to the Midlands or Scuffle is chronologically, to be fully honest. I believe the women’s side was more competitive, but as Iowa wrestlers were technically unattached, they did not claim a team title. Unattached wrestlers did score 162.5 points, compared to Life University’s 129, but I don’t think that’s just Iowa wrestlers.
Oklahoma State dominated the field, scoring 181 team points compared to North Dakota State’s 144.5 and Mizzou’s 125. Minnesota finished in fifth with 96 points, with Maryland eighth with 58.5, and Purdue ninth with 55.5.
At 125, 1-seed Matt Ramos delivered for the Boilermakers, defeating Noah Surtin 4-3 to claim the weight. He had a major and a pin in his 5-0 run. Maryland’s Braxton Brown entered as a 6-seed, but was upset in the round of 16 by Minnesota’s Troy Sprantley. Both found themselves in the seventh-place match, where Sprantley medically forfeited.
It was no surprise that Daton Fix won the 133-pound bracket, but what was a surprise was that it was Brayden Palmer of Chattanooga that he needed to beat in the finals. Palmer, ranked 27th by Intermat, knocked off 2-seed Attasauov (Iowa State) and 3-seed Nagao (Minnesota) to get to the finals, where he fell 7-3. Nagao won his final two matches to finish third.
141 was chalk, with 1-seed Alirez easily handling 2-seed Hart in the finals. 3-seed Bergeland made the semis for Minnesota, and finished third overall. He did defeat 6-seed Carter Young of Okie State and 4-seed Dyland Droegemueller of NDSU to do so, so while the bracket was boring, Bergeland did hold his own.
149 was the first weight to see a major upset, with top-seeded Jaden Abas of Stanford falling in the round of 32. He did wrestle his way back to third place, defeating Ethen Miller of Maryland in his final match. No Big Ten wrestler made the quarterfinals, but three did finish in the top eight, with Minnesota’s Blaine Brenner finishing seventh over teammate Marcos Polanco via medical forfeit.
The Big Ten did poorly at 157, with 1-seed Coleman being the only placer. He lost a tiebreaker decision to Jared Franek of NDSU for the title. 6-seed Michael North went 2-2, losing in the round of 32 before being pinned in the loser’s bracket.
Minnesota had two seeded wrestlers at 165, and each made the semifinals before each was pinned in the second period in the consolation semifinals. Sparks defeated Carlson for fifth place. Griffith won the weight, defeating 2-seed Michael Caliendo III of NDSU after neither David Carr nor Keegan O’Toole entered the tournament.
Dustin Plott, the one seed, won the 174-pound bracket over two-seed Peyton Mocco. Minnesota had two wrestlers in the semifinals, but O’Reilly finished fourth and Krattiger finished sixth, both medically forfeitting their placement bouts.
No Big Ten wrestlers made the quarterfinals or placed in the top eight at 184 pounds, where Oklahoma State had another champion in Travis Wittlake. Two-seed Sean Harman of Mizzou did not place, and Jacob Nolan of Binghamton finished eighth, so this was a chaotic weight.
Only Maryland’s Jaxon Smith was seeded from the Big Ten, earning the three-seed and finishing fourth. Top-seeded and fourth-ranked Ethan Laird was pinned in the semifinals by eventual champion Owen Pentz, who was ranked 28th in the country.
Two-seed Jaron Smith of Maryland was the final of several disappointments for the Terrapins, losing consecutive matches to unseeded opponents to fall well short of placing. Likewise, four-seed Garrett Joles made the semifinals before losing a decision to champion Zach Elam, a tiebreaker to Konnor Doucet of Okie State, and a pinfall to Jonah Niesenbaum in the fifth-place match.
From a team perspective, I don’t think anyone in the conference is happy. Least of all is Maryland, whose magical start to this season did not continue into the new year. Several seeded wrestlers for the Terrapins finished no higher than fourth-place. This was a poor showing for the conference overall, even without any top teams present.